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Dulles and Eisenhower

In response to:

Two Cheers for Ike from the September 24, 1981 issue

To the Editors:

A loose parenthetical remark makes unclear just what Ronald Steel intended to say in his review of the new books on Dwight Eisenhower.

Steel writes:

And then, of course, there is the basic fact that he managed to get through eight consecutive years in office (a feat unmatched by any since and by only three earlier presidents) without doing anything catastrophic.

In fact, of course, six earlier presidents had served at least eight consecutive years: Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Jackson, Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt. True, three of them had seen foreign wars in their administrations, but is the War of 1812 a catastrophe and is war the only way of “doing anything catastrophic?”

The reader needs either six parenthetical presidents or some sense of new limits on catastrophe.

John B. Anderson

College of the Holy Cross

Worcester, Massachusetts

Ronald Steel replies:

Mr. Beigel’s interesting letter substantiates the general belief that Dulles—though he denied the intention to violate US law—did propose to Bidault that atomic bombs be used (whether by the US directly or by loan to the French) at Dien Bien Phu.

I intended to write “only three presidents since the Founding Fathers” but didn’t. So Professor Anderson is quiet right to berate me for sloppiness.

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